There are some very good, and more obvious reasons why the tap on the shoulder method of recruitment works. It has been used since the begiining and will continue to be used in the future. It works. Why? Apart from the obvious i.e the avoidance of "walk in's" which therefore eliminates the prospects of a double agent entering the organisation, there are less obvious, more subtle (less Policitcally Correct) benefits. We recently wrote about the "Buddhist Spy" and highlighted how removing temptation from an Intelligence (or Operational) Officer as well as an Agent, was often critical in aiding autonomy in the field, as well as trust. The process of targeting an asset for recrutiment is of course completley different and conducted by entirely different people compared to those involved in the more 'vanilla' graduate recrutiment campaigns. That said, there are some cross-overs. There are also some serious deficiencies and limitations to the more exclusionary Oxbridge focussed pool of candidates. In essence there is no one way. There are lots of types needed to fit into an organisation like MI6 or MI5, and representatives from all walks of life and parts of society will be included. The days of Kim Philby certainly highlighted how 6 can get caught with their draws down in Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed they did...in some cases literally. Things probably have not changed that much and there will still be the ususal contingent of 'Russian Reps' walking the cobbled paths of Trinity. It all depends on the job in hand. A diplomat respresenting the FCO in Brussels has to know how to hold a fork after all, and shoot the breeze in a number of topics. By the same token, an agent or operational officer might have precise local knowledge of negotiating a fair rate at a Warsaw brothel or bottle of Wyborowa, or how to lap dance for a visiting Easten dignitary. All visions from a Le Carre novel of course, but you get the point. It takes all sorts. St Andrews and Oxford (generally) offer a middle class elite who might have the family treasure chest to fall back on, so short term financial gain may not be foremost in their minds. They might be used to discipline and harsh treatment but no more so than the teenage street smart facebook manipulator who has lived a little. So, what is the key draw to the tap on the shoulder?
The two things any Intelligence Service values very highly, Control and Trust. It gives the organisation control of the process and is therefore more likley to facilitate trust. In this writers view, paranoia and a deep basic level of mistrust are fundamental and desired attributes in this profession. What people consider the 'norm' and healthy in everyday life, may have no place in the IC (or atleast certain parts of it). Taking the topic 'off piste' slightly, some might say the best field agents are slightly mad (methodically mad) highly creative (preferably left handers), magnets for pressure, highly manipulative (exceptionally important and a characteristic too often critisised in people), alone, resourceful,possibly on the spectrum, and have a knack of seeing things others do not. An intelligence officer on the other hand, straight from University is a different animal. That person may not have drink Vodka out of punnets with a Ukrainian Assassin on farms in the Urals, but his job means he will probably find the right person who has. Finding someone who has the skills to work in both roles would however be, apart from unusual, very useful (ahem). The word 'recruitment' means completely different things in different departments. For example, there are a myriad of situations and scenarios when it comes to targeting and recruiting an asset, especially one where they are being asked to provide information about their own organisation or government. There are literally dozens of methods used and it is highly experienced Intelligence Officers and their teams who are responsible for turning or manipulating an asset.
Essentially it is still recruitment, but a far cry from the milkrounds around University campuses. Being in an operation can often require skills generally more associated with a con man or fraudster, especially where a cover is being maintained. However, the point man (or woman) in this case has a huge supporting army of highly trained, professional staff back at Section 6. Without each other, and without faith in each others skills, they simply would not be effective. And don't think that these operatives and teams within the hierachy are simply focussed on terrorist organisations. Certainly in the nineties, most of the larger City trading floors had one or two MI5 recruits on stand by. The 'territorial army' equivalent of Intelligence staff if you will. IN the eighites of course htere were the Unions, more recently officers can be found in numerous Government bodies such as HMRC or the Financial Conduct Authority. The reach in endless and always meticulously planned. Going back to the role of an IO, you will be required to demonstrate those skills also associated with typical management positions as well as desired traits such as lateral thinking, risk assessment or specific technical knowledge. As a payroll employee you will have to jump through the HR hoops to a larger extent nowadays than pre-1996. Everyone is accountable of course. If you see a career in the business and maybe eventually within the private intelligence arena, then this will be the path for you. Later in the 'Recruitment' sections we will highlight some well known and not so well known methods of recruting assets. In our view the success and consistency of any intelligence service is fundamentally down to recruitment, specifically targeting and using human assets to deliver precise and valued intelligence. If they cannot be found, or cannot be converted or recrutied, then the whole organisation will suffer. So, being recrutied for a role in recrutiment within MI6 is an extremely important function. And of course, exciting and rewarding beyond many conventional professions.